It’s exam season, and throughout schools, pupils are showcasing their skills and knowledge after a year of learning.

Exams can be really nerve-racking – they involve planning, preparing, sitting still, concentrating, remembering and keeping calm and collected throughout. It’s no wonder that so many pupils struggle.

Schools and exam boards recognise both the effort and the special considerations that are needed at these times – particularly for those children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Schools can make access arrangements for some pupils to ensure they can be validly assessed and are not unfairly disadvantaged: These might include being in a smaller room, given extra time, rest breaks, or more bespoke support.

Despite this, many students will find the pressure heavy to bear.

For parents and their children, never ending tests can seem like a fruitless task: another reason for a child to feel anxious, overwhelmed and disengaged.

However, there is a different perspective, if we look beyond the test results and focus on the learning that results from the testing situation.

Throughout life, we are faced with our own set of ‘tests’ – each one of us will feel differing amounts of comfort, or anxiety when faced with our own battles. For some this may be catching a bus, driving on a motorway or speaking to someone on the phone. And yet, we all know that it is ok to feel anxious, and that it is normal to feel nervous.

Ultimately, tests are here to stay – not only in school but throughout life. Could tests actually be a great way for children and young people to embrace fear and learn crucial resilience skills? Here are a few extra tips for supporting pupils’ speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) to develop resilience skills:

Identify feelings

Talk about how children and young people feel, using visual descriptors or colours for younger children. If children cannot identify these feelings, model to them after the strong feeling has dissipated, how you thought they felt and why you thought this. “I thought you were upset because you were quiet and you didn’t want to talk about it.”

Be positive

The fear of failure plays strongly when a child feels that they may not succeed. Reminding them of all the things they can do can be a powerful antidote to this negative mindset. Tests can feel like children are being pitched against each other, rather than aiming for a ‘personal best’.

Help to find solutions

Look at what helps and try it out. E.g., “You needed a few minutes to think about something else, and then you were able to come back to the question.”

Reward the effort

We are all motivated by different things. Finding a meaningful reward at the end of a test can be a great celebration for completing the exam and moving past that moment.

In conclusion, while exams can be incredibly stressful, they also offer an opportunity for growth and development. By focusing on the learning that comes from testing situations, we can help children and young people develop crucial resilience skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. So, let’s not just see exams as a hurdle to overcome, but as a valuable opportunity for personal growth and development.

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